LIVING HIGH ON THE HOG WITH 2 LADY FARMERS

living-high-on-the-hog-with-2-lady-farmersLocal news and radio personalities in Hawaii have an aura of celebrity beyond that of typical regional anchors. Here they’re often beloved characters who have been educating and entertaining for years. So when a local radio personality turned morning news host like Billy V knows who you are, it can be both surreal and a cause for celebration.

In July 2017, pig farmers Stacy Sugai and Patsy Oshiro were tickled to see Billy V hosting a cooking segment with local chef Johan Svensson, using their pork. Billy V nodded in recognition when the chef mentioned 2 Lady Farmers by name as he crafted the “Crackling 2 Ladies Pork Shank,” the signature dish for his restaurant, BLT Market in the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach.

Local news segments and feature dishes at the Ritz were far beyond anything Stacy and Patsy ever anticipated when they teamed up to create 2 Lady Farmers.

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Sugai and Oshiro feed their pigs macadamia treats.

“Our whole emphasis was trying to get in the stores,” Sugai said.

“We didn’t even think restaurants,” Oshiro chimed in.

The two shared modest goals in part because of their modest start. Despite being high school classmates, the two women were strangers when they met five years ago as Sugai moved into the home at the former Derego pig farm.

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Oshiro shows off a piglet.

The Deregos had been well known as one of many families farming in Waianae on Oahu’s west side. While much of Oahu has developed with large housing and hotel complexes, Waianae has remained a rural outpost where there are many small locally owned farms, including several pig farms. It’s common in Waianae for pig farmers to feed their animals slop and to sell pigs to locals who drive up to the gate, rather than producing commercially viable pork.

Sugai didn’t know much about pig farming when she and her family bought the old Derego farm, but she did know that she wanted to do things a little differently. Her initial vision had been to become totally self-sufficient, but the demands of a pig farm quickly proved too great to pursue self-sufficiency. She needed to learn how to run her farm first.

Luckily for Sugai, she had great neighbors. The day she moved in, Patsy Oshiro came by with her husband to pick up a forklift. Oshiro could tell Sugai would need help.

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Manoa lettuce wraps from Goofy Cafe & Dine made with 2 Lady Farmers pork (when available).

“I felt sorry for her,” Oshiro said as she recalled how run down the farm had become, coupled with how unprepared Sugai was to run it.

Unlike Sugai, Oshiro was well versed in running a farm. She is a third-generation farmer, whose family was once the largest producer of Manoa lettuce in Hawaii. She married into pig farming and, although she acknowledges it’s hard work, she enjoys it.

Kiawe-smoked pork chop from d.k Steak House, also made with 2 Lady Farmers pork.
Kiawe-smoked pork chop from d.k Steak House, also made with 2 Lady Farmers pork.

The two women became fast friends, and Oshiro taught Sugai everything she needed to know about raising pigs. Soon Oshiro was at Sugai’s farm six days a week for several hours each day after having already worked a full day on her own farm.

Eventually Sugai got a handle on the farm, and the two friends decided to become business partners. Their goal was to get pork sold in local grocery stores.

“My thing was really wanting to get into Foodland because they’re locally owned and operated,” Sugai said.

They were able to get Foodland and Sack N Save to sell their pork under the name PS Pork (Short for Patsy and Stacy), which was a major accomplishment. Most of the pork labeled “local” in Hawaiian markets is actually raised on the Mainland then shipped in via large container ships to slaughter. 2 Lady Farmers is one of the only operations on island that breeds, raises and sells 100 percent local pork for retail.

A family dog relaxes with a piglet at the former Shinsato Farm.
A family dog relaxes with a piglet at the former Shinsato Farm.

The “locally born and raised” slogan on the PS Pork labels eventually caught the eyes of Amy and Glen Shinsato. At the time, the Shinsatos were running their own pig farm in Windward Oahu. Shinsato Farm had been family owned and operated since the 1940s. It was well known on Oahu as the only local farm to provide pork to high-end restaurants like Ed Kenney’s Town, or Kailua’s beloved Kalapawai Café. Their name was a staple of the popular farm-to-table movement in Oahu.

“The Shinsatos really worked hard at getting local pork out there,” said Sugai.

Their hard work paid off. By 2015, chances are that if you ate a local pork chop at an Oahu restaurant, it would have come from Shinsato Farm. That dominance in the restaurant market was one of the reasons Sugai and Oshiro didn’t set their sights on distribution to restaurants. The Shinsatos had it covered.

Unbeknownst to the 2 Lady Farmers though, the Shinsato family planned to sell the farm. According to the Shinsato Farm website, “Late in 2015 it had become evident, due to an illness in the family, that Shinsato Farm would have to be sold.” It was clearly a decision that weighed heavily on Amy and Glen, who had worked so hard building up restaurant clientele.

While the Shinsatos were selling their land and worrying about the future of locally raised pork on Oahu, Amy Shinsato came across PS Pork in Foodland. She contacted Sugai and Oshiro in short order to find out how they operated. Amy Shinsato realized that the 2 Lady Farmers would be a perfect match to fill the void in the market after her own farm closed.

“We specifically asked 2 Lady Farmers [to promote local pork] because they have the same philosophy and farm ethics as we have and we like how they raise their pigs. Well-raised pigs produce good pork,” according to the Shinsato Farm website.

The Shinsatos started introducing Sugai and Oshiro to their clients and teaching them the business side of commercial pig farming. When the time came to finally sell the farm, the Shinsatos gifted 40 breeding pigs to 2 Lady Farmers to ensure their line of quality stock continued.

Today, Sugai and Oshiro continue to sell pork under PS Pork to Foodland, but a large part of their business is selling to top-tier restaurants, thanks to the help from Amy and Glen Shinsato. The Shinsatos, meanwhile, are enjoying their retirement. They can still be found at the Blaisdell Center Farmers’ Market on Wednesday afternoons and the Mililani High School Farmers’ Market Sunday mornings selling raw pork and prepared pork dishes from 2 Lady Farmers.

Unlike most of the pigs raised in Waianae, Sugai and Oshiro’s pigs are grain fed with no antibiotics in their feed. Unless an animal has an infection, the only medications pigs receive at the farm are an iron supplement and two vaccines: one to avoid worms and the other to prevent lung infections. The lady farmers’ main concern is raising happy, healthy pigs. Each animal gets special attention and care, including macadamia treats and back scratches.

The love and care 2 Lady Farmers puts into each pig comes through with great tasting pork that is ethically raised here in paradise.

As a consummate animal lover, Sugai explains, “We love them as much as we can when they’re here, until they go to their purpose.”

INTERESTED IN TRYING 2 LADY FARMERS’ PORK? HERE ARE A FEW WAIKIKI RESTAURANTS THAT CARRY THEIR PRODUCTS:

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